A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 12; 2nd Edition
33.1 miles run in races in 2018 races
Race: Do Stop 3 Hour Trail Run
Place: Bremond, TX
Miles from home: 113
Weather: 50 degrees; partly sunny; VERY windy
I like running loops. I liked timed races. Running a certain time rather than a certain distance is a different type of racing which requires a different mindset. (I wrote about that here.) When I saw this oddly named race relatively nearby in a part of Texas that I wouldn't necessarily have any other reason to go to, I checked it out. When the weather looked positively delightful for race day, I was sold.
The course was deceptively tough. I mapped it out myself to try to get a sense of the elevation and I saw there were virtually 50 meters on the two mile loop we would be running that were flat. The rest of it was undulating in one direction or another. In addition, upon checking it out the night before I ran, I could see there was a creek crossing we would have to make twice per loop and a lot of the course had little twists and turns in it. Without a doubt this would be no walk in the woods.
While the temperature and humidity were both to my liking, what rolled in the day before the event was a hellacious wind. The race itself started at 7:30 p.m. Friday night for those doing the 24-hour edition. Also, for about half an hour in the middle of the night, rain absolutely poured down on the runners. When I woke to race in the morning, the rain was gone but the wind, gusting well over 40 mph and making life hell for the organizers of this race, was ever present and swirling.
Setting up at the starting line was an easy task for all four races going on (3, 6, 12, and 24 hour) as there were only about 25 competitors. When I went to collect my bib to pin, they told me it was on my chair. As I held my chair in my hand I was a bit confused. Then I saw, as part of the race premium, there wasn't a t-shirt but rather, your own folding chair with your name on it. Now that is
The wind was whipping around something fierce and as I was down to my customary shorts and shirt with nothing else on (I knew I would be way too hot with anything else once I started running) I alternated between using the Porta-Potty and a last-minute reprieve in my car to stay warm. This race truly was set up about as easy as possible for anyone wanting to run it. The land owner had recently built a beautiful home with a pool and hot tub and what appeared to be more than a few rooms in a line all with separate doors. Sure enough, it was almost like a hotel. If they want there is no way they couldn't sell these out next year to people wanting not to camp nearby or in a hotel 20 miles away (like I did). Before too long, it was time to line up and go.
First Four Loops:
I had no idea if the other seven or so people would present any challenge for me today but I intended
to make them work for it if they did. I shot out of the gate and immediately plunged down a hill before going back up again. Through a small cluster of trees the trail led us to the steepest downhill of the course and then through a cattle fence.
After that, I saw the creek crossing ahead and realized that it might have been more of a puddle. There appeared to be at least a small portion on the righthand side where I might be able to skip the water entirely. Granted it was rocky and partially covered in slippery mud but that was better than wet feet. Half way across, however, I noticed some bushes protruding and before I could avoid it, I took a few of them right to the thigh. Literally two minutes into this races and I was bleeding already. Then I took two full steps each in the water soaking my feet for good measure.
He's a big dumb animal, ladies and gentlemen.
Next we went over a quick bump with some white, fist-sized rocks which were very loose and hard to navigate, through an easier to avoid puddle, and then back up a small hill. After that we weaved through a forest with quick turns and a few ankle-breaking turns as you tried to swiftly navigate the terrain. After sliding through there, an opening appeared and we entered the field we would run through later in the loop. This small section was the flattest stretch of the entire race.
Into the forest we went again for another twisty-turny portion, also with a small climb before leading into a fast descent with another quick climb again. through another cattle guard and now we were in the field for the longest downhill of the race. Unfortunately, what goes down comes back up in this loop and around a cluster of trees, and through some low-hanging branches we went before cresting this hill and rejoining the trail we ran on previously to once again navigate the two bodies of water.
Then it was up the steepest uphill of the race before a spin around a field leading to a downhill and then an uphill which brought you to the conclusion of the loop. As I said, this was not an "easy" course. I was hoping to get these loops in around 15 minutes or so to attempt to get 24 miles in for the three-hour period. When my first loop took 17:08, I realized I was probably going to have to re-evaluate my whole plans.
On the third loop, I finally felt like I was catching my wind. With Emma by my feet I started to pick things up. She would cut through the forest where I was sure she was going to go chase a squirrel or something and then somehow always ended up in front of me. She obviously knew the lay of the land and was looking at me like "We doing this, biped?" When I came in with a time of 16:28 for the third loop I thought maybe I could still get those 12 laps and 24 miles.
Emma decided to leave me here and grab a drink of water or scratch herself. To be quite honest I was a little bummed. Even though she had twice run into my foot and almost tripped me in a wooded section, I was loving her company. She had helped take my mind off the wind which was truly one of the top three windiest races I have ever run. On this fourth lap I assumed I would slow a touch without the aid of my illegal pacer but coming in at an exact 16:28 again buoyed my spirit.
Next Two Loops:
I grabbed my first swig of a drink of any kind after these four loops. I didn't feel like I necessarily needed it but I knew I was already eight miles in. The wind was still gusting and had made me a little parched. As it was a feed-yourself kind of race, I simply grabbed my water bottle, stopped to swig it, and then kept running. I came in at 16:38 for this lap and the only difference in time between the previous two laps was essentially the time I spent stopping and drinking.
By now I realized I would not be running close to 15 minutes per lap no matter how hard I tried. As such I was in a bit of a dilemma. Five loops done put me at 1:23 on the clock. If I equaled that for the next five loops I would have 14 minutes to complete one loop before the three hours was done.
I drank heartily from an electrolyte drink and the race director appeared next to me. He must have seen exactly what I saw and told me that any loop that starts before the clock hits the hour can be completed. They just tack the time on. So if I ran what I was running, I could finish 22 miles in three hours and two minutes. I told him it would give me something to think about and took off.
Next Two Loops:
I was definitely feeling a bit knackered and when I came in this loop at a 17:24 (which counted the time of me drinking and talking with the RD) I realized I was only going to do ten loops. It actually made me feel good to know I only had three more to go. The next loop gave me a 17:16 and my legs were feeling weary.
I detailed it in a series of tweets here but I would be remiss to not at least mention it here. I highly suggest you check it out.
Final Two Loops:
Feeling quite parched as I finished my eighth loop I spent an entire minute drinking a Gatorade. The wind had really taken a great deal out of me, as did the up-and-down on the trail. I decided I would take this loop a little easy and then really pour it on for the last loop. Since I wasn't concerned about how much time I left for a loop I wasn't going to attempt, a few more seconds of reprieve here was appreciated. The race has a side challenge I have never heard of before in timed races. In order to persuade people to be moving as much as possible, they have time limits for how long you can be sitting down somewhere. For the three-hour event, you only had twenty minutes where you could be lollygagging and not running. It wasn't exactly enforced per se but it was interesting nonetheless.
It was quite clear that even though there was one guy nearly two laps behind me, no one else was going to challenge me today. I pushed hard throughout the loop, this time running straight through the water each way.. I hoped I might be able to get a sub-16 lap but fell just short with a 16:11. I sat down with ten minutes to spare and a total of 20 miles in two hours and fifty minutes. I was the winner. There was great rejoicing.
I might have to accept that eventually, but I am not ready to do so just yet.
In total, I think this event could be a destination race if they promoted it a little better, came up with a better name (it is supposed to be almost a challenge, like saying "Go ahead. Stop." but really kinda falls flat) and worked out a few more tweaks. The organizers seem to be very affable chaps and I hope this recap gives their registrations a little boost in the future. This victory, and just my second race in 2018 (which is just mindboggling to me) really helped apply salve to a rough athletic start to the year. I am ready to use it as a springboard to a far better second half.
Hopefully with less wind.